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  1. Extra


    Directed by

    USA, Italy


    85 min

    • Amharic


    Through a coming-of-age story, ​ANBESSA ​captures one boy taking on modernization on his own terms, revealing a unique and magical perspective on the myth of “progress” that entraps us all. Ten-year-old Asalif and his mother have been displaced from their farmland on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, by the construction of a condominium. As they watch the buildings take shape, they are reminded in small and big ways that their country’s dream of “progress” is not for them. To fight back against those casting him out and those threatening his mother’s safety, Asalif taps into a fantasy of becoming his hero: the lion (“anbessa” in Amharic). Asalif uses his imagination to battle forces beyond his control. His newfound power and fantasy take him to places he never imagined inside and out of the condo until finally, Asalif must find the strength that resides in him as a boy, and shed the lion persona, in order to deal with the tides of change and violence that are usurping a community, a country, and his own identity.


    Labels & Line Ups


    Asalif Tewold
    Alem Sebisibe Ayitenfsu
    Mo Scarpelli
    Mo Scarpelli
    Nico Leunen
    Thomas Pooters
    Erik K. Skodvin

    Director's Statement

    I began filming with Asalif and we started creating a fairytale out of his experience. Fairytales offer us ways to face the complex forces that affect us, ones too large or complicated to comprehend as they unfold. This is what this ten-year-old protagonist does in his daily life: he spins elaborate stories in order to deal with the intense forces of change and domination that are threatening him and his mother. With time and care, he granted me intimate access to his world and that of his neighbors to really dig into how modernity conflicts human identity and coming of age.
    On the surface, Ethiopia seems to benefit greatly from globalization. However, rapid “progress” is actively leaving millions like Asalif out of the picture. While ANBESSA is set in Addis Ababa, the ways gentrification, industrialization, and capitalism push so many out of the success story are truly universal.

    Mo Scarpelli

    Mo Scarpelli


    Mo Scarpelli is an Italian-American director and cinematographer of nonfiction cinema. Her debut feature-length documentary FRAME BY FRAME screened at SXSW 2015, BFI London Film Festival, Hot Docs (Audience Top Ten), and more than 100 other festivals, garnering over a dozen jury and audience awards as well as a Cinema Eye Honors nomination. Mo is a selection of Berlinale Talents 2018, twice a recipient of Catapult Film Fund support, and has received the Speranza Female Filmmaker Award. Her documentary short work includes directing EL HARA (NYJFF 2018) and SURVIVING KENSINGTON (Vimeo Staff Pick 2017), and serving as cinematographer on films including SPEAKING IS DIFFICULT (Sundance 2016).